A QUICK GUIDE TO STREET FOOD IN SHANGHAI
Undoubtedly the most cosmopolitan city in China, Shanghai attracts tourists and expatriates from around the world, creating a cultural epicentre in a country that boasts the largest population in the world. Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and modern infrastructure lies a society that is immensely proud of their heritage and culture, as well as the traditional cuisine and incredible flavours it has to offer. Check out what are some of the delicious street foods in Shanghai you should not miss.
1. Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Soup Dumpling)
Morsels of juicy, meat-filled dumplings, wrapped in thin, partially leavened dough, legend has it that Xiao Long Bao originated from Shanghai in the 1870s. Aspic is added to the filling, which turns into soup after steaming, making it perfect for a cold day. This delicate snack got its name from the small bamboo baskets it is steamed in, and today has conquered the hearts and tastebuds of many food connoisseurs around the world. Eat it on its own, or pair it with some vinegar and julienned ginger for that extra kick.
2. Sheng Jian Bao (Pan-fried Pork Bun)
Meet the cousin of Xiao Long Bao, the lesser-known but equally delicious Sheng Jian Bao. Made with thicker dough and similar meat filling, the buns are then pan-fried face down in a large round skillet, creating a crispy outer layer with the juicy insides filled with soup. Sheng Jian Bao is a ubiquitous breakfast item in Shanghai, but it can also be found throughout the day in many eateries and enjoyed as a snack. Due to the thicker outer skin, the soup in the bun does not cool easily, so take care when biting into one!
3. Cong You Bing (Scallion Pancake)
There is some debate about the origins of this dish, but it has no doubt become a staple in Shanghai. The savoury flatbread, made of dough and sprinkled with a layer of minced scallions, is fried in oil until golden brown on both sides. The story goes that Cong You Bing is the inspiration behind pizza, when Marco Polo tried to recreate it after he returned to Europe from China. However, the myth has since been debunked when records of pizza were found dated back to before Marco Polo was born. Nevertheless, we are sure he loved this tasty snack.
4. Chou Dou Fu (Stinky Tofu)
The name itself does not inspire much confidence, and like all other food that gives off a strong smell, such as blue cheese and durian, you either love it or hate it. The tofu is fermented, and then either steamed, stewed or deep-fried, and served with different concoctions of sauces and sometimes paired with pickled vegetables. There are different methods of fermentation to produce stinky tofu, which result in different flavours as well. However, those who love this dish will generally agree that the stronger the smell, the better the flavour!
5. Xun Yu (Shanghai Smoked Fish)
A classic dish of Huaiyang origin, the fish is deep-fried, and then simmered in sweet soy sauce, a typical Shanghainese condiment. Commonly enjoyed as an appetiser, the dish is traditionally served cold, although you can enjoy it while it is hot as well. With its crispy outer skin coated in a sweet and tangy sauce complemented by tender and succulent flesh, the flavour and texture of Sun Yu greatly make up for its rather underwhelming appearance.
6. Da Zha Xie (Hairy Crab)
Native to the rivers and estuaries of eastern Asia, the hairy crab has a dark green shell and claws covered in distinctive brown fur, thus earning its name. Steamed to bring out the natural flavours of the crab, this prized delicacy has a fragrance that will appeal to any seafood gourmands. The meat is sweet and succulent, and the crab roe rich and creamy. The hairy crab is a seasonal item, more easily found during autumn.